Ayn Rand, Christians and Altruism

What is the standard of value in this or that ethical system? Is it some transcendent immaterial ideal? A personal God? The community at large? One’s self? According to Ayn Rand, “The objectivist ethics” which she promotes “holds man’s life as the standard of value—and his own life as the ethical purpose of every individual man” (The Virtue of Selfishness, Signet, 1964, p. 27).  Rand goes on to unpack what she means by standard and purpose and value. For our purposes, it is sufficient to focus consideration simply on her human individual-centered ethical system. Later, Rand goes on to write:

The basic social principle of the Objectivist ethics is that just as life is an end in itself, so every human living being is an end in himself, not the means to the ends or the welfare of others—and, therefore, that man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. To live for his own sake means that the achievement of his own happiness is man’s highest moral purpose (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 30).

Lastly, for our purposes, she writes,

The Objectivist ethics holds that human good does not require human sacrifices and cannot be achieved by the sacrifice of anyone to anyone. It holds that the rational interests of men do not clash—that there is no conflict of interests among men who do not desire the unearned, who do not make sacrifices nor accept them, who deal with one another as traders, giving value for value.

The principle of trade is the only rational ethical principles for all human relationships, personal and social, private and public, spiritual and material. It is the principle of justice (The Virtue of Selfishness, p. 34).

I don’t believe Ayn Rand had any reservations in thinking that she was seeking to dismantle any and every form of altruistic ethical system, including the Judeo-Christian faith. Whether she is right or wrong about what she claims, why do so many Christians seem to think they can make use of her system of thought for how they engage in life? For some of them, do they find her a modern day Nostradamus, who in their minds rightly predicted America’s current economic situation? Even if that were so, would it suffice for discarding altruism? I believe Christian Scripture has a lot to say about the future of those who discard altruism.

The connection to Rand may be more indirect—a lack of concern and even disdain for altruism in the market more than a devotion to Rand. Yet as has been shown elsewhere, key conservative leaders with whom many Evangelicals align politically have looked to Rand in the development of their policies and views, including Paul Ryan and Glenn Beck.

Is it simply Rand’s atheism that is the problem? Not all atheists reject altruism, but rather embrace it. Perhaps many of these Christians think that one can practice altruism in their personal lives with family members and in church, though not in the sphere of the market. For what it’s worth, Rand would reject such compartmentalization. Her system applies to all spheres, just as altruism applies to all spheres in the Christian faith in my estimation. With this in mind, can Christians approach trade in the market void of any altruistic concern? Can we ever reduce or limit consideration of our fellows to the label of “trader”? If so, how? From a biblical Christian standpoint, how just would that really be?

This piece is cross-posted at The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and at The Christian Post.

About Paul Louis Metzger

Dr. Paul Louis Metzger is the Founder and Director of The Institute for the Theology of Culture: New Wine, New Wineskins and Professor at Multnomah Biblical Seminary/Multnomah University. He is the author of numerous works, including "Connecting Christ: How to Discuss Jesus in a World of Diverse Paths" and "Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church." These volumes and his others can be found wherever fine books are sold.

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  • JohnDonohue

    An important distinction when investigating this topic is that which Rand makes between ethics and politics. Political altruism requires force initiated against human beings: government extracts value from citizens by coercion with the supposed motive of helping others. Ethical altruism requires the individual to sacrifice value (wealth, time, etc) voluntarily.

    Having said that, it is accurate to say Rand condemned altruism in both cases.

    There is zero wiggle room in her condemnation of political altruism; she is the most consistent thinker on that score ever, and thus the major champion of freedom and individual rights.

    As for ethical altruism, Rand’s position can also be clearly delineated: she considers it morally wrong for individuals to ‘live for others.’ This does not preclude helping others, but it is only considered ethical if, in exchange for the value given, the individual receives back a personal value, such as seeing the uplift of someone personally loved, or someone sharing the values of the giver; she would characterize such helping as non-sacrificial, as long as the giving did not harm the giver. In no case does she consider sacrifice ethical, namely the destruction of one’s good for the random supposed good of a stranger or undeserving person.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      > …major champion of freedom and individual rights.

      Not so much.

      Rand’s is a fraudulent philosophy that champions the right to take.

      “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land…Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.” ~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy West Point 1974

      How well does a genocide necessary to take over a continent fit with individual rights?

      • JohnDonohue

        Rand did not advocate murder, much less genocide in this case. Your unwarranted construction of that implication requires an apology.

        She did, however, reject the claim that the North American continent consisting of 9.5 million square miles was owned outright and in toto by a few hundred thousand Aboriginals.

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          > Rand did not advocate murder…

          Actually she did advocate mass murder, based on racism. You dishonestly evade the meaning of her words. I’ll repeat them.

          “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land…Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.” ~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy West Point 1974

          > a few hundred thousand

          Wrong.

          Several tens of millions, up to a high estimate of 100,000,000, were deliberately slaughtered, outside of those who died by disease, according to David Stannard’s American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. (Oxford University Press, 1992)

          “…far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world.” (p. x)

          > Your unwarranted construction of that implication requires an apology.

          I guess we’ll see how you apply your standards to your own self.

          • JohnDonohue

            Please substantiate the actual population of the North American continent in 1492. Include any actual concentration (city) with a population of over 40,000.

            There are none.

            And, Rand did not advocate genocide, even in the quote you actually quoted! “Take over” does not mean genocide.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > …any actual concentration (city) with a population of over 40,000. There are none.

            Wrong, again.

            “University of Chicago archeologist Alan L. Kolata excavated at Tiwanaka during the 1980s and early 1990s. He has written that by 1000 A.D. the city had a population as much as 115,000, with another quarter million in the surrounding countryside—numbers that Paris would not reach for another five centuries.” (p. 22)

            “…Marjo’s population recently estimated at 100,000.” (p.29)

            “….Indian populations in 1491 was between 90 and 112 million people.” (p.104)

            ~Charles C. Mann (2005) 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Knopf.

            “Cahokia’s population at its peak in the 1200s was among the largest cities in the world, and its ancient population would not be surpassed by any city in the United States until the late 18th century…If the highest population estimates are correct, Cahokia was larger than any subsequent city in the United States until the 1780s, when Philadelphia’s population grew beyond 40,000.” ~en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahokia

            That was easy.

            “Take over” does not mean genocide.

            Stalinists are still defending the Holodomor with low-ball estimates (like yours) and myriad excuses (like yours) why it wasn’t a genocide. Fine company you keep.

          • JohnDonohue

            1) Rand’s context of “the continent” is meant to address the issue of physical territory now occupied by the United States. She was addressing the notion of so-called genocide of the indigenous population there. This means everything above the Rio Grande.

            2) The population in that area was small in 1492. I have challenged many to substantiate that it even reached 1 million. There are no large cities.

            3) Tiwanaka is not in North America, nor, as in the Rand context, were the Inca and Aztec populations, nor the remnants of the Mayans.

            A few hundred thousand indigenous people do not have an in toto claim to the ownership of millions, many millions, of square miles.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > The population in that area was small in 1492

            Wrong. And the following Atlantic Magazine article addresses why you would purport a low-ball number:

            The smaller the numbers of Indians, she believes, the easier it is to regard the continent as having been up for grabs. “It’s perfectly acceptable to move into unoccupied land,” Stiffarm says. “And land with only a few ‘savages’ is the next best thing.” ~1491, The Atlantic

            > A few hundred thousand indigenous people

            Wrong again.

            Estimates of the population of North America in 1491 disagree by an order of magnitude—from 18 million, Dobyns’s revised figure, to 1.8 million, calculated by Douglas H. Ubelaker, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian. ~1491, The Atlantic

            I’ve provided sources for you to check your false premises. Will you check your premises, or continue to evade reality?

          • JohnDonohue

            And, conversely, an exaggeration of the population props up the claim that the continent was fully populated, civilized and stable, making it easier to scream “genocide” by those with an agenda.

            Second, you ignore your responsibility to validate that the Ubelaker claim is based on a congruent geography as required under the context of this thread: that currently called “The United States of America.” If you substantiate that or alter your assessment, I will respond. Otherwise, your citation is useless.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > an exaggeration

            False accusation. I’m not exaggerating; my sources have been scholarly, and have provided a wide range of estimates, yet any sources for your claims are completely absent. Not a single cite from you. Why?

            > scream “genocide”

            Are only genocides committed by Communists screamable?

            > those with an agenda

            Magically mind reading, huh? Gotta love such a spectacle of hyper-rationality! By the way, what’s my agenda?

            > you ignore…a congruent geography as required under the context of this thread: that currently called “The United States of America.”

            You ignore that the quote from Ayn Rand says continent, not the political boundaries of the US as you falsely purport.

            “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land…Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy West Point 1974

            And I provided scholarly data that refutes your baseless claims about pre-invasion population estimates for the North American continent.

            > your citation is useless

            Only if you can show that the political boundaries of the USA completely encompass the North American continent.

            Your whim is to continue evading reality and refusing to check your premises.

          • JohnDonohue

            To anyone still reading: Brian Bowman refuses to provide the context of Ubelaker. In an attempt to do his work for him, I could not find the study. Anyone who cares to dig, attempting to establish an estimate of the indigenous population of the territory now occupied by the United States, I would speculate that Ubelaker’s 1.8 million figure includes what is now Mexico, Canada, Central America and islands in the Caribbean. I maintain that the target area contained less than one million people. If indeed Ubelaker does NOT include those Territories, I would be interested in seeing his math. Please supply a link to the study.

            Here is what is most important: Rand is the strongest advocate for freedom and individual rights, as was my original claim, because she identifies the philosophical grounding that even giants such as John Locke did not possess, and she formed her political philosophy based on this root. Even this one response to one question at a forum, which is the only one contested against my claim so far, does not make her a hypocrite, let alone advocate genocide. It only includes “taking over” anything and any place not owned by indigenous people.

            P.S. by the way, that Atlantic article Mr. Bowman linked supports low-counting over high-counting. Did he think I would not check it?

            P.P.S I gave 40,000 as my threshold for “find a big city” specifically because that is a rough estimate of what is purported to be the largest, Cahokia. Note that the paragraph provided by Mr Bowman contains within it the implication that this, the largest concentration, was less than 40,000 in 1492.

            P.P.P.S. Rand’s “The Continent” means the area currently within the boundary of the U.S. She is defending an accusation against the United States. This was a spontaneous response during a Q and A. If she had written it in an essay, this context could and would have been detailed and called out.

          • Guest

            > Rand’s “The Continent” means the area currently within the boundary of the U.S.

            Third grade geography class fail.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Rand’s “The Continent” means the area currently within the boundary of the U.S.

            Third grade geography class fail.

          • Philosophy Science

            Yeah, the continent, because there were no civilizations in the area. She was referring to wherever there were savages a civilized people had a right to institute government where there was none, where there was anarchy.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Yeah, the continent

            That’s what I provided data for. Thanks for your support.

            > civilized

            I don’t think you know what that “agricultural civilization” means. What it means historically is aggression, as anthropology has shown:

            “Civilization originates in conquest abroad and repression at home.” ~Stanley Diamond (1981) In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization, p.1

            “The emergence of systematic warfare, fortifications, and weapons of destruction follows the path of agriculture.” ~Violent Origins (1987) Stanford University Press

          • Philosophy Science

            You have some very perverted ideas about civilization and some very inaccurate ideas about life before civilization.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > very perverted ideas

            Want to set me up to recant my thought crimes before The Inquisition?

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tym0MObFpTI

          • Philosophy Science

            Please, if Ayn Rand said white person she was referring to the new Americans who were white to distinguish between them and the native Americans. The color is totally arbitrary, if the natives were white and the new Americans were some other color it doesn’t matter. It has nothing to do with race, it has everything to do with being a civilized human being.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > if Ayn Rand said white person

            There is no “if” about the fact that she said it. The recording is well documented and on aynrand dot org. Why would you say “if?”

            > The color is totally arbitrary

            Then why mention the color “white” in her dehumanization diatribe against the First Peoples? Is Ayn Rand an arbitrary speaker?

          • Philosophy Science

            Suggesting Ayn Rand was racist is about the most ridiculous thing a person could suggest. We know she judged the native Americans by the contents of their mind and she and other philosophers have made this point very clear. Nobody is advocating her ideas and relating them to race.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Nobody is advocating her ideas and relating them to race.

            Wrong. She is.

            Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take…” ~Ayn Rand

            > she judged the native Americans by the contents of their mind

            We know the First Peoples were highly influential in forming the US Constitution, amongst other many contributions,* so their minds must have been just fine.

            _________________

            * Jack Weatherford (1991) Native Roots: How the Indians Enriched America. New York: Crown Publishers.

          • fuguewriter

            From the 16th through the 19th centuries, the population of Indians sharply declined.[35] Most mainstream scholars believe that, among the various contributing factors,[36] epidemic disease was the overwhelming cause of the population decline of the American natives because of their lack of immunity to new diseases brought from Europe.[37][38][39][40] It is difficult to estimate the number of Native Americans living in what is today the United States of America.[41] Estimates range from a low of 2.1 million to a high of 18 million (Dobyns 1983).[3][4][42][43] By 1800, the Native population of the present-day United States had declined to approximately 600,000, and only 250,000 Native Americans remained in the 1890s.[44] Chicken pox andmeasles, endemic but rarely fatal among Europeans (long after being introduced from Asia), often proved deadly to Native Americans.[45][46][47][48] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Native_Americans_in_the_United_States#Historical_Population

          • fuguewriter

            Of course, population numbers do not establish right or wrong. As a Taoist, more or less, in politics, I observe that big states always do, and advocate for a slow change to greater compassion and (therefore) liberty.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > population numbers do not establish right or wrong

            I never brought up the population numbers, the supporters of Ayn Rand’s “right to take” did. And then lost on it too.

          • fuguewriter

            Not everything is a war-move, B.B. Not everything has an implication that you’re totally stupid and do everything wrong.

            You should try it sometime.

            It was a side-comment, re. the whole issue between JohnDonohue and yourself.

          • fredweiss

            They didn’t recognize such “ownership” even among themselves and engaged in frequent inter-tribal warfare both for territory and dominance – and which included slavery and the subjugation of women.

          • fuguewriter

            Tiwanaku (note preferred spelling) is not in North America. – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tiwanaku

            Fascinating about Cahokia. Quite a place.

            Of course, Sidis speculated that the Native Americans contributed to the creation of the American system – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tribes_and_the_States

            “Take over” doesn’t mean genocide. Your bringing in Stalinists won’t save you.

          • fuguewriter

            “Take over” definitely does not mean genocide. Note how they must invent scenes in her novels and insert things in order to carry out their agenda? I think Rand hugely sideswipes the legitimate property rights of *individuals* (that’s an emphasis mark, not a contrapositive against the tribes) in non-white America, but that’s another matter. (It’s also a throwaway remark. Next we’ll hear the tired debunked nonsense that she was in love with a serial killer. Or that she grabbed Social Security without contributing to it. Or that she died in poverty. Or that she committed suicide.)

          • fuguewriter

            You made a major error, there, and your tone is growing increasingly hysterical: “While conceding that the majority of the indigenous peoples fell victim to the ravages of European disease, he estimates that almost 100 million died in what he calls the American Holocaust.[3] In response to Stannard’s figures, political scientist Rudolph Rummel has estimated that over the centuries of European colonization about 2 million to 15 million American indigenous people were the victims of what he callsdemocide, which excludes military battles and unintentional deaths in Rummel’s definition. The vast majority of the victims of democide were in Latin America. “Even if these figures are remotely true,” writes Rummel, “then this still make this subjugation of the Americas one of the bloodier, centuries long, democides in world history.”[4] – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Stannard

      • fuguewriter

        You inserted the genocide, dude.

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          Why do you evade identifying honestly what happened?

          “…far and away, the most massive act of genocide in the history of the world.” ~David Stannard (1992) American Holocaust: The Conquest of the New World. Oxford University Press, p. x.

          • fuguewriter

            Type “evade” more times. It’s a magical autoproof, and flummoxes torpid minds. A subtle strategy.

            As previously shown, Stannard’s take (which you numerically misrepresent – from the Wiki I linked to previously: “While conceding that the majority of the indigenous peoples fell victim to the ravages of European disease…” – non-intentional disease-spreading, when germs/virii/bacteria were unknown is not genocide – intentionality is requried) is not mainstream. Ward Churchill is not an enviable neighborhood.

            Also: I wasn’t discussing South America, since Rand wasn’t – read her complete answer at http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Talk:Ayn_Rand#Native_American_Quote

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Stannard’s take (which you numerically misrepresent

            You’re mistaken. Read his book. But the telling thing is that you keep trying to justify genocide.

          • fuguewriter

            Hey, that’s a good trick: to point out inaccuracies in a particular claim of American-continent genocide is to justify said genocide.

            I’ll copy mathematicians on this, so they know that when they disprove X they’re actually justifying X.

      • Philosophy Science

        The native Americans were savages. They had no concept of property, including land. If they were able to understand that they would have those rights if they so chose to set up land for themselves. I believe the new Americans tried to get them to do this, but they wanted to remain in tribes. They were also a nomadic people. You have to keep in mind that even the ancient Greeks four thousand years before the native Americans were a civilized people who had a basic understanding of land and property. Civilizations existed even before that, but the native Americans were just cave-men. The Greeks were not savages, if the native Americans had been at the level of the ancient Greeks they would not have been savages and they may have had a chance. The Native Americans were biologically human, but they just never advanced philosophically. As a consequence they didn’t advance technologically either, they didn’t even have the wheel.

        • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

          > The native Americans were savages…just never advanced philosophically.

          Those so-called “savages” (which means only “dwellers of the forest” (latin, silvia)) were quite influential in the writing of the US Constitution.

          Great Law of Peace: Influence on the US Constitution

          > They had no concept of property, including land.

          Wrong, but let’s stipulate that you are correct anyway:

          Since you have no formally recognized rights to the air you breath, can a “superior” civilization who have formally recognized “air property rights” suffocate your society without any moral repercussions, because yours is a “backward” society which hasn’t “progressed” to air property rights?

          What you’re engaging in is baseless character assassination in justification of genocide, a morally reprehensible position.

          • Philosophy Science

            A ridiculous example that completely misses the principle. It is not about a “superior” civilization. It is about any civilization vs. some people who are so primitive they don’t understand basic property rights. The people in your example who should be guilty of that are the native americans, not the so called “superior” civilization.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > so primitive they don’t understand basic property rights

            Cite? Or are you merely engaging in further dehumanization efforts?

          • Philosophy Science

            The native americans did not understand property rights. They rejected attempts to establish property for them as individuals. If you stopped to think for a second you would realize that if anything you were saying were true, then it is your philosophy which is being condemned, because I’m advocating the system of private property. So, it is your philosophy of collectivism which would be guilty of violating the rights of the native americans if they were in fact the ones who believe in private property.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > The native americans did not understand property rights.

            Cite?

            > They rejected attempts to establish property for them as individuals.

            Cite?

            > Collectivism

            Collectivism, say you? Here is an excellent example of collectivism:

            Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take…” ~Ayn Rand

            What could be more collectivist than the term “any white person?”

    • Harry Binswanger

      Right. More briefly: she denied that the need of others is a moral claim on one’s own life.

      Getting back to the article itself, this *is* the antithesis of Judeo-Christian ethics. That’s a good thing,

      • Philosophy Science

        I always say let Christians decide that. Or, at the very least say it is the opposite of the morality that is advocated in the name of Christianity so prevalently. At the same time always advocate that they make their conclusions based on reason, not scripture or faith. Only after if they so choose should they look for reflections of their rational conclusions in scripture, but never the other way around.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        Then whence cometh Ayn Rand’s “right to take?”

        Is “any white person’s” right an individual or collective right?

        Is “the right to take” a negative or positive right?

        “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land … Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.” ~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy at West Point, March 6, 1974

  • Nathan Bubna

    I think it has merely rubbed off due to too close of association with certain political parties that tend to smile upon such rich/business friendly ideologies.

    • fuguewriter

      Business largely ignored Rand for fifty years plus. If she were such a business rationalizer, there would have been more support. Most big businesses at least until recently have been on the cautious public-face side of things, so they’re not going to ally with her. Too radical.

      • Dan C

        Big Business ignored Rand because her political philosophy required the removal of all regulations and tax code provisions that helped keep “big business” big. Many regulations were, and are, designed to shield big business from competition.

        • fuguewriter

          There’s something to what you say – Rand was an enormous foe of crony capitalism. But that was by no means the only reason. There was a lot of soothing Chairman of the Board talk back in the day about social service and such – she was just too much for them.

          • fredweiss

            …as she is, in the final analysis, for many of her conservative admirers…who, when pressed, back off from their stated support and strongly qualify it (as witness Paul Ryan in the last election).

            That doesn’t alter the fact of her frequently being the target of distortions and smears by her opponents. Oppose her if you must but do it honestly not by erecting a caricature.

          • Dan C

            She criticized those business men who were unwilling to state that, to the extent that the provided goods or services, trading with others was the moral justification they should rally behind when they were accused of not “giving back” and not being good corporate citizens.

            Rand called them out for their inability to see the moral good they were doing by being productive. Instead, they seemed to apologize for their profits.

            Rand’s demand that productive men not apologize for being paid more than others was too much for them.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            “Crony capitalism” is identical to “false Christian” (used to explain away Christians who behave badly.) Both are a logical fallacy called No True Scotsman.

          • fuguewriter

            Incorrect. “Crony capitalist” is convertible with this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_entrepreneur

        • fuguewriter

          However, even in pure economic freedom, there would be big businesses: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economies_of_scale

          They also would not grow to monopoly size: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diseconomy_of_scale

          • Dan C

            I agree that some business would grow to be bigger than others, some probably bigger than “big business” today. The difference between the free market and crony capitalism is that in a free market business get–and stay–big by being better than the competition.

          • Philosophy Science

            A monopoly is not a quantitative measure of a business size. A monopoly is a qualitative attribute provided by the state to prohibit that company’s competition. This means the state will engage in this anti-government behavior to initiate force on anyone who would wish to compete over a geographic area.

        • Harry Binswanger

          Here I side with fuguewriter not Dan C. It is true that some businessmen, too many, are what Rand called “men of the mixed economy” or “aristocrats of pull,” but basically businessmen hold pretty much the same philosophy as everyone else. The top ones went to the ivy league schools where they were pounded with the doctrines of altruism and collectivism like all of their classmates.

          Also, in an age dominated by the philosophy of Pragmatism, they are unable to think in principles (again like the vast majority of people).

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            Collectivism, say you? Here is an excellent example of collectivism:

            Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take…” ~Ayn Rand

            What could be more collectivist than the term “any white person?”

  • David Springer

    I would guess that it actually goes deeper than the popular thoughts that Rand’s views have merely “rubbed off” on Evangelicalism as it has re-entered the political area and especially wedded itself to one party over the other. The ideas of Rand
    presuppose a hyper-individualism with each “true” or “valuable” person
    having some inherent self-created/self-obtained value that can be
    utilized for exchange. This is very different than a Biblical Christian
    viewpoint that sees each person as an important part of a
    community/body ala the Trinitarian God and who derives value and worth
    from God through Jesus and sets the highest good in the form of a
    self-emptying, self-giving love.

    • fuguewriter

      Rand would hold that value as beyond exchange. It, in her system, produces value, but is itself literally priceless. One reason she has such negative but “successful” characters as Peter Keating and James Taggart.

  • axelbeingcivil

    Ayn Rand’s definition of altruism is so narrow that only suicidal, self-destructive, pointless acts would qualify under it.

    • JohnDonohue

      Her definition is the original, root definition as identified by the thinker (Comte) who described the concept and coined the word “altruism.” It means “living for others.” Period.

      This is not narrow. Religion teaches it as the highest virtue, living for God and other human beings.

      • axelbeingcivil

        Rand’s definition and Comte’s aren’t synonymous. What would fall under the bracket of one would not fall under that of the other. Whereas Comte defined altruism as a need to improve the lives of others as they improved one’s own, Rand defines it more in the sense of being forced – whether by sense of social obligation or by threat – into taking action against one’s own will for the sake of others.

        Whereas a man choosing to give away all his worldly possessions, spend every waking hour amongst the poor, and dedicating himself to charity because he believes it is the right thing to do would fall under Comte’s definition, it would not fall under Rand’s, who would declare this to be a case of rational self-interest; the charitable gentleman is working to enhance what he believes is virtuous and, thus, therefore, is not actually being altruistic.

        Hence my statement: Nothing, under Rand’s definition of altruism, except the most suicidal, self-destructive, pointless acts would actually apply as altruism. In fact, most anything and everything can be justified somehow as a kind of rational self-interest.

        That is an intensely narrow definition. Perhaps it’s a deserving one but I bring it up chiefly because it’s a common trouble whenever people discuss Rand. Ultimately, she’s talking about volition; her view of altruism is so narrow that what is commonly accepted to be altruism would not fall under that bracket in her terms. Ultimately, she’d have been better off simply talking about volition rather than altruism.

        I disagree with Rand – a great deal, in fact – but I’m a stickler for clarity.

        • JohnDonohue

          “altruism as a need to improve the lives of others” implies coercion. Comte’s impulse was that altruism be driven and enforced by authority.

          http://jrdonohue.com/altruismrandcomte.pdf

          Today such coercion is sanctioned at the drop of the hat. It could not be any ‘wider.’

          As for the non-volitional altruism, there is wide — very wide — self-destruction in this world of people sacrificing their purpose, their self, for the sake of God, others, family, state, etc. with no such idealism as you describe in your example. This is the dull default into a life of obligation.

          Your claim is 180 degrees wrong.

          • axelbeingcivil

            The need to improve the lives of others doesn’t really imply coercion; people can and do regularly embrace that desire out of personal drive every day, without any threat or outside pressure. Humans, being empathic creatures, often want to help one another.

            Similarly, you might make the argument that Comte’s ideal social order might require force to come about because human psychology doesn’t work to his utopian scheme, but Comte himself – to my knowledge – makes no such argument. Quite the opposite, really, he seems opposed to the use of force. If your chief argument is that Comte was another in a long line of moon-eyed philosophers whose utopian ideals cannot practically apply totally to reality, you’re not stating anything particularly novel there.

            As for the notion of self-destructive altruism, I think you give too much credit to the notions of living for others and coercion. While I agree that plenty of people subject themselves to ignominy or are subjected to it via coercion, I’d argue that the rest comes from lack of examination, not anything remotely resembling a truly conscious decision to choose to dedicate oneself to others even without any positive return. The dull routine is far more the enemy than any social force, I would say, to self-actualization.

        • Dan C

          Your conclusion that Rand would regard the man who gives up everything, etc as selfish because “he believes it the right thing to do” is completely unfounded. Rand did not think that whatever a person might desire to do as being equal to what constitutes being in that man’s self-interest.

          • fredweiss

            DanC is correct and his view is in accord with the latest scholarship on Ayn Rand’s ethics and with which her critics are obliged to familiarize themselves :

            http://www.amazon.com/Ayn-Rands-Normative-Ethics-Virtuous/dp/0521705460/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1386044386&sr=1-1&keywords=tara+smith

          • axelbeingcivil

            I’d rather read Rand’s own works, myself, rather than a particular scholar’s view on them. I made the statement I did having done so.

          • axelbeingcivil

            Rand wasn’t really unclear on this point; what was rational self-interest saw the embracing of one’s highest moral virtues and values, be they artistic, hedonistic, explorative, or otherwise. One did not need to be a Captain of Industry to be acting in one’s self-interest – sometimes, quite the contrary. She embraced the notion that someone creating something they saw of worth and value was doing more good than someone who merely went along for wealth and fame. Honestly, The Fountainhead is pretty much a love-letter to this notion.

            While desire and self-interest are not identical notions, if the betterment of others is what someone perceives as their highest moral virtue, then it would be entirely in keeping with Rand’s philosophy and definitions for them to seek that with all the effort they can muster.

          • Harry Binswanger

            “if the betterment of others is what someone perceives as their highest moral virtue, then it would be entirely in keeping with Rand’s philosophy and definitions for them to seek that with all the effort they can muster.”

            Absolutely not! The Fountainhead was written precisely against that idea. That’s what the book calls “living second-hand.” From Roark’s courtroom speech:

            “Man’s first duty is to himself. His moral law is never to place his prime goal within the persons of others. His moral obligation is to do what he wishes, provided his wish does not depend primarily upon other men. This includes the whole sphere of his creative faculty, his thinking, his work. But it does not include the sphere of the gangster, the altruist and the dictator.”

          • Harry Binswanger

            Dan C has it right. People “believe it right” to sacrifice because they’ve accepted what they’ve been told, despite the fact that it makes no sense. Mindless acceptance of the ideas of others (moral ideas included) is completely UNselfish.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > People “believe it right” to sacrifice

            Altruism does not necessitate “sacrifice;” you’re twisting the definition with hyperbolic denunciations. I’ve already corrected your error here.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        > Her definition…

        Rather than her twisted definition, let us use one based on empirical evidence, since altruism is a fact of evolutionary biology in social animals,[1, 2, 3] including humans.[4]

        One could infer from her objectivist philosophy that olive baboons and vervet monkeys are evil parasites who also need “swept away.” Bye, bye primates!

        “Sweep aside those parasites…who live on the profits of the mind of others…” ~Ayn Rand
        ____________________
        1. Trivers, R. (1971) The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly review of biology.
        2. Packer, C. (1977) Reciprocal altruism in Papio anubis. Nature.
        3. Seyfarth, R., Cheney, D. (1984) Grooming, alliances and reciprocal altruism in vervet monkeys. Nature.
        4. Fehr, E., Fischbacher, U. (2003) The nature of human altruism. Nature.

        • JohnDonohue

          Without assenting to anything in your post, it is first of all a non-starter because it assumes human beings are only driven by evolved autonomic behavior. This is summarily rejected.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            Are you claiming that all other animals—and yes, humans are animals—only have “evolved autonomic behavior?”

            Your mistaken assumption is summarily rejected.

            Other animals also make moral choices; this is a fact of evolutionary biology:

            Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. (1996) Harvard University Press.
            Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. (2006) Princeton University Press.
            Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (2010) Chicago University Press

            It is time for you to—as Ayn Rand exhorted—check your premises.

          • JohnDonohue

            no, YOU are claiming it. You asserted that the definition of a high-level human concept, altruism, ought to be determined by evolutionary studies, pushing aside Comte’s root definition and Rand’s identification of why it is wrong.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            You keep evading that altruism and morality are observed in social animals, including the human animal. There are decades of science for you to catch up on that contradict your false premises.

          • JohnDonohue

            Reply not necessary, as you did not respond to my refutation of your premise.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Reply not necessary…

            Oh, I’ve been summarily dismissed, as Ayn Rand was wont to do frequently from her cultish Collective?

            > …as you did not respond to my refutation of your premise.

            You’ve never responded to my refutation of your premise. Keep evading that if you want.

          • Philosophy Science

            You are not arguing with Ayn Rand’s ideas or the ideas of anyone else. You are changing the subject to the character of the person making the argument.

          • Dan C

            Other animals make moral choices?? The lower animals’ needs (all of them) are automatically set by nature. There can be no morality without the power of such choice.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Other animals make moral choices?

            Indeed.

            • Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals. (1996) Harvard University Press.
            • Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved. (2006) Princeton University Press.
            • Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals (2010) Chicago University Press

            > The lower animals’ needs (all of them) are automatically set by nature.

            Cite?

          • fuguewriter

            Not altruism in Rand’s meaning – which makes a lot of this irrelevant.

          • Philosophy Science

            Altruism in the real meaning is the important one. Ayn Rand untangled a word that had conflated essential differences. It was this tangled concept that humanity was unable to untangle. This is what prevented humans from reaching their full potential for thousands of years. It was this enigma which she solved. Altruism (sacrificing yourself to others) and narcissism (sacrificing others to yourself) are the two anti-selfish directions of sacrifice. She discovered that selfishness is the morality of virtue and sacrifice was evil, but she untangled all these concepts to get to their real meaning.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Altruism…Ayn Rand untangled a word…

            Do you have a cite from a good evolutionary biology journal on the subject of altruism, explaining how she did that, that actually adds to the following examples of scientific knowledge about altruism?

            1. Trivers, R. (1971) The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly review of biology.
            2. Packer, C. (1977) Reciprocal altruism in Papio anubis. Nature.
            3. Seyfarth, R., Cheney, D. (1984) Grooming, alliances and reciprocal altruism in vervet monkeys. Nature.
            4. Fehr, E., Fischbacher, U. (2003) The nature of human altruism. Nature.

          • Philosophy Science

            Your arguments from authority are nonsense. Evolutionary biology? People are making arguments for you to evaluate based on logic and reason and all you can do is bring in your cult of publishing authority. If you want to see Ayn Rand’s arguments in more detail you can read her books.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            It is rather telling that a self-styled rationalist ends up denouncing the rational science that contradicts his false premises.

          • Philosophy Science

            You are not referring to anything remotely intelligible.

          • Harry Binswanger

            You are both arguing the wrong issue. First, morality presupposes free will. If we can’t help doing what we do, there is no meaning to telling us what we *ought* to do. So evolutionary biology (which I love and based my doctoral thesis on) carries no weight here.

            Secondly, the issue is not what is the best word to name the idea of self-sacrifice. The issue is: is self-sacrifice good or evil?

            Thirdly, if we get to this level, Rand used “altruism” as she did not because of Comte’s usage or anyone else’s but because one needs to align one’s concepts with the *fundamental* issues. In regard to systems of ethics, the two fundamentals are: What is the ultimate value–the purpose of morality as such? and Who is the proper beneficiary of the pursuit of values–the agent who pursues them, or anyone (or anything) else.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > You are both arguing the wrong issue.

            The subject here is “altruism.” Scroll up and read the title. Altruism is an empirically observable behavior of social animals that can be explained by the evolution of morality in social animals.

            > So evolutionary biology (which I love and based my doctoral thesis on) carries no weight here.

            Evolutionary biology addresses morality in humans and other animals.

            > the *fundamental* issues.

            The fundamental issue is your ideology is in contradiction with empirical evidence. You should check your premises.

            A real life example of altruism is my stopping and helping an elderly bicyclist who fell over. (As it turns out, the fellow had a massive heart attack.) I got out of my car, stopped traffic (at some risk to my well-being) and began CPR. I marshaled others’ efforts, who also displayed altruism. One lady gave me her Wendy’s drink to wash out my mouth after EMS arrived. One man helped direct traffic around me (I was in the middle of the street.) Another moved the victim’s bicycle into his pickup and told EMS his address so it could be picked up later by police.

            (If you doubt, The Elkart Truth (Indiana) ran a couple articles in it, because it was Christmas time (several years ago,) and the fellow went to the hospital immediately for heart surgery after I saved his life. The second article was because my lovely wife, also an RN, took care of him on CCU after his heart surgery.)

            No, I didn’t “sacrifice my life,” nor did the victim demand I “sacrifice my life for his,” as Ayn Rand is wont to twist the term. I just displayed a behavior called altruism.

            If you studied evolutionary biology, look up a real definition of the term altruism—behavior the opposite of selfishness—some time.

        • fuguewriter

          Changing the meanings of words is a no-no in interpretation. Even with cites.

          • Philosophy Science

            Untangling words that in themselves conflate essential differences is a great service to helping people think clearly. This is exactly the enigma that Ayn Rand solved. It was this enigma that has prevented humans from reaching their full potential due to a lack of a clear understanding of morality and the requirements of human life.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Untangling words

            That is exactly what I did, with scholarly references to scientific articles that define the term altruism from an emperically evidenced position.

          • Philosophy Science

            If you used your mind to actually think rather than go by scholarly authroity maybe you would realize that your authority is wrong.

          • Philosophy Science

            This has nothing to do with scholarly references to scientific biology articles or invoking that authority. This has to do with some concepts which were improperly formed.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Changing the meanings of words is a no-no

            Then Ayn Rand shouldn’t have twisted definitions.

          • fuguewriter

            Change is bad.

    • fuguewriter

      She’s trying to force the issue. And as the other replier to you indicates, it’s the original definition. It’s not disputable that collectivist regimes (and their defenders) uphold the sacrifice of individuals to the State, the workers, the Fuhrer, etc.

      ( One of the places where I disagree – respectfully – with Rand is in her postulation of premises as such moving powers in the unconscious and in the construction of emotions. But that doesn’t affect what she *meant*. )

      • axelbeingcivil

        I’ve replied rather fully below as to the notion of the word’s definition, although that’s not even scraping the surface of how it has changed with time.

        To you more directly, though, I’m curious what you define as the sacrifice as individuals and, furthermore, why you lump an ostensibly fascist state built around a dictator with a Cult of Personality under the label of collectivism (one may as well call absolute monarchies collectivist, too).

        Every nation-state, ever, must make demands of its citizenry, both in the form of taxes and requests of service or aid in times of need. Does a country that asks its citizens to fight in defense of their land and rights uphold their sacrifice? What of one that asks them to fight and possibly (inevitably for some) die in the defense of what they hold up as their deepest values? If the state is meant to be a representative of the values of the people it serves, is calling for people to fight in its defense immoral? Is its praise of those who die in its service dishonourable?

        As I noted above and below, Rand’s definition of altruism is so narrow as to only include things given under threat or out of bizarrely suicidal tendencies. Even by her strict definitions, outside of conscription, none of this exhortation would be considered immoral under any other circumstances so long as other people are of value to you.

        • fuguewriter

          Sacrifice of individuals I’d define – remember, I’m not an Objectivist – as the initiation of significantly harmful force against individuals in the name of or for the sake of a higher, deeper, or wider good or benefit.

          Dictators are always collectivists. As Rand’s Mr. Toohey says, “One neck – ready for one leash.”

          Nation-states will make fewer demands on people with time, as peace spreads. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_peace_theory

          Countries don’t “ask” – this locution is akin to Clinton’s attempted record of income tax to “contribution.” First of all, a government is not equal to a country is not equal to a people is not equal to a nation. These are all differing things.

          > If the state is meant to be a representative of the values of the people it serves

          This is the ancient illusion that must end. This is the organic theory of the state.

          > Rand’s definition of altruism is so narrow

          It’s extreme, in order to force the issue. However, you must remember the times in which she was writing. That’s how things were. Have you read how the Soviets and Nazis and Fascists – all of them then beloved by 30s Brain Trusters in FDR’s Washington – talked?

          • axelbeingcivil

            Your definition of sacrifice would include law enforcement and, indeed, self-defense. If nothing else, Rand most certainly did not decry those as altruism.

            As for dictators and collectivism, a collective would indicate that the power is mutually spread; a labour union, for example, collectively bargains as representative of the workers in its membership, while the corporate side is not said to collectively bargain as it is purely the interests of the company owner. Ostensibly, you could say that the CEO collectively bargains on behalf of the shareholders if you wanted but, again, that merely reinforces the definition; a dictator is not representative of the will of the masses, their power not laying in the collective wills of the people but in their power to suppress them.

            As with altruism, to define anything that is not pure anarchy as collective is certainly a definition but, when talking about differing government styles, it would define anything that is simply not pure anarchism as collectivist.

            Finally, on the notion of countries not asking, it certainly varies. The length and breadth of the powers of a nation-state, though, are a discussion that’s lengthy and detailed all on its own.

          • fuguewriter

            > Your definition of sacrifice would include law enforcement and, indeed, self-defense.

            Not at all. *Initiation* of force is key.

    • Harry Binswanger

      axelbeingcivil: The question is: are you for or against the idea (by whatever name we give it) that the good is to sacrifice yourself to others? Taking sacrifice as she defines it: the surrender of what you value more for what you value less, or for nothing at all.

    • Philosophy Science

      There are quantitative degrees of altruism, but the qualitative essence is the same. Altruism is incremental suicide. I suppose narcissism (sacrificing others to yourself) would also be incremental suicide. Both are anti-selfish behaviors. Ayn Rand figured out this moral enigma that has prevented humanity from realizing their full potential. She untangled the conflation that prevented people from thinking clearly about morality.

  • Mark Nicklas

    Social Darwinism. Some worldviews are parasitic as a starting point. Anyone
    who would propose to lead you by such a standard would certainly be
    motivated by their own self interest, no?

    • fuguewriter

      I’m not quite clear what you’re saying here. That Rand was Social Darwinist? (She wasn’t.)

      • Mark Nicklas

        Objectivism, ultimately, is no different than an individualism that “trades to its own benefit” – it is one with “survival of the fittest.” The weak are trampled under it.

        • fuguewriter

          But that’s not so. Rand didn’t want anyone to be weak, and didn’t believe in people being trampled. “Social Darwinism” was invented as a smear – there’ve been next to no prominent adherents of the creed in the English-speaking world.

          • Mark Nicklas

            Then we will agree to disagree, fuguewriter. It is naive to believe that people don’t get trampled when self-interest is the driving force in society. It may be less visible here in the US, but I wish I could introduce you to a few communities in West Bengal. where the weak are being trampled, abused and objectified.

          • fuguewriter

            But you’re punning on “self-interest.” Rand didn’t believe at all in the traditional conceptions of self-interest – she denounced them in fiction (in the characters of Wynand, Toohey, and Keating in “The Fountainhead”) and in non-fiction. You can’t rewrite the meaning of her words when she argues at length for a new conception. So, what she actually argued for doesn’t lead to trampling.

          • fredweiss

            You are absolutely correct. As Dr. Metzger himself quotes Ayn Rand above, “…man must live for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others *nor sacrificing others to himself*.” (emphasis added).

          • fuguewriter

            Thank you. I really do not understand what it is about Ayn Rand that makes people’s brains partially turn off and partial go into hyperdrive. I think she pushes buttons on a fundamental level, and people scramble to try and fend off the bad thing any way they can. It’s almost a lexicon of logical and interpretive (and rhetorical) errors.

            Sad thing is, I’m not an Objectivist – they love telling me I am – and I have major ~respectful~ disagreements with Rand. But I did my homework and I’m still doing it. In most things, particularly with her written work, she is not an easy one to catch up – much more difficult than it appears.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Rand…didn’t believe in people being trampled.

            What is the difference between being trampled and swept away?

            “Sweep aside those parasites of subsidized classrooms…” ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

          • fuguewriter

            Perhaps your dictionary’s busted, but not your Google. Cf. “foot” and “shoe” and “boot” versus “hand” and “arm” and “broom.”

            To pretend your question’s sincere: what’s the field of application of “Social Darwinism” and the trampling allegedly inevitable in a purely Randian society? What’s the field of application of a hortatory sweeping aside of those who, in that fictive universe, are teaching poison using stolen funds?

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > “Social Darwinism”

            I never made reference to that concept. Read the thread above, it appears Mark Nicklas did. Please indulge your interest in the subject with him.

          • fuguewriter

            You are unable to even follow threads.

          • Harry Binswanger

            “Sweep aside those parasites of the subsidized classrooms” says: dismiss the claims of those teachers and professors who, supported by tax money, advance the doctrines of mysticism, altruism, and collectivism.

            The fuller quote (out of a 60-page speech) is:

            “Sweep aside those parasites of subsidized classrooms, who live on the profits of the mind of others and proclaim that man needs no morality, no values, no code of behavior. They, who pose as scientists and claim that man is only an animal, do not grant him inclusion in the law of existence they have granted to the lowest of insects. They recognize that every living species has a way of survival demanded by its nature, they do not claim that a fish can live out of water or that a dog can live without its sense of smell — but man, they claim, the most complex of beings, man can survive in any way whatever, man has no identity, no nature, and there’s no practical reason why he cannot live with his means of survival destroyed, with his mind throttled and placed at the disposal of any orders they might care to issue.”

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > The fuller quote (out of a 60-page speech) is: “Sweep aside those parasites…”

            The fuller context is dehumanization, which Ayn Rand engaged in constantly.

            “At the core of evil is the process of dehumanization by which certain other people or collectives of them, are depicted as less than human…” lucifereffect.com/dehumanization.htm

          • M.

            I Don’t understand Rand’s beef with altruism.

            Or mysticism for that matter.

            Scientific studies have been conducted on the brains of Buddhist monks while engaged in meditation and various areas of the brain associated with happiness and other positive physiological states that are conducive to long term health and well being have been shown to be activated.

  • Y. A. Warren

    “…key conservative leaders with whom many Evangelicals align politically have looked to Rand in the development of their policies and views, including Paul Ryan and Glenn Beck.”

    Much of what those, who believe they align with Rand, are actually aligning with the notion that people are born with certain debts of their former lives and/or of their ancestors. They believe that humans are, thus, automatically, and for their full lifetimes, worth less for their work than are others. They support their beliefs with cronyism and nepotism, rather than subjecting their community members to the rigors of democratic rules of deeds, not creeds.

  • Loren Sickles

    “Whether she is right or wrong about what she claims, why do so many Christians seem to think they can make use of her system of thought for how they engage in life?”

    I believe there are a couple of factors at play in considering an answer to this question. First, for a couple of generations now communist and/or socialist economic systems are devil terms that have become deeply embedded into the psyche of conservatives of all flavors, religious or not. Rand’s overt hatred of all things communist and adulation for the myth of “free markets” makes it simpler for people who share these same ideologies to heuristically adopt the useful parts of her values. It is ironic to me that within the conservative Christian community one of the primary criticisms of modern communism has been its atheistic underpinning, and yet Rand gets a pass on this particular ideology.

    A second factor is more focused on conservative Christianity. For several centuries, going back prior to the industrial revolution, there has been a prevalent belief within western society that “God helps those who help themselves.” Coupled with the “protestant work ethic,” good old “American individualism” and myths surrounding the role of Christianity in the founding of America, conservative Christians have created a narrative that is deeply embedded in their understanding of social and economic values. Primarily that you have what you have because “you earned it.” You made “good” choices, you were frugal, you invested it wisely and YOU have a RIGHT to use it how YOU choose. Skye Jethani coined the term “Constitutional Evangelicalism” a few years back and I think it is an apt metaphor for describing what he calls “Christians more likely to know the second amendment than the second commandment.” Many conservative evangelicals are more concerned about protecting what they “earned” than using what they have been “given.” I have long felt that the real issue here is a question of “ownership.” Who really owns the stuff we call ours? Whether intentionally or not, Rand’s philosophy supports this Constitutionalist view of ownership; and for people with an ideology looking for a framework to support it hers comes in handy. They would certainly be hard pressed to support it using Christian scripture. But then, from my perspective, if you are using Rand as your framework scripture quit being important long ago.

  • Yonah

    Well, you know. Rand lied. Both she and her husband cashed quite a few Social Security checks. So much for her claims and bravado. Is her “system” really worth spending time thinking about?

    • fredweiss

      Is this smear continually worth repeating? Yes, apparently she took SS checks to which she was entitled and on advice she received (she was required, as are we all, to pay into it over her working years). But, despite the implied claims to the contrary, she did not need the money. All of her titles were still in print and selling well and she left a sizable estate.

      • fuguewriter

        In excess of $500,000, according to the New York Times.

        • jackcade

          They cannot refute her so they resort to half-baked smears.

          • M.

            Well for me it was her Phil Donahue interview where she says Americans should “support Israel” because it is more technologically advanced than Palestine. That’s the reason she stated, anyway but I think it has more to do with her tribal affiliation. But even if not, what sort of “support” does a civilized, technologically advanced state need? They can put on their big girl/big boy panties and woman up/man up for themselves.

      • americanwoman343

        Is that in some way an excuse? She didn’t need it, so therefore taking it didn’t undo her system of thought?

        • fuguewriter

          When did she claim you should live minimally? The money was taken from her – she had a right to recoup some of it. (Bear in mind she lost the use of it – including interest and capital gains.)

    • fuguewriter

      Please show that she *lied*. Where?

      • M.

        Well fugewriter, for me it was her Phil Donahue interview where she says Americans
        should “support Israel” because it is more technologically advanced than
        Palestine. That’s the reason she stated, anyway but I think it has
        more to do with her tribal affiliation. But even if not, what sort of
        “support” does a civilized, technologically advanced state need? They
        can put on their big girl/big boy panties and woman up/man up for
        themselves.

        • fuguewriter

          That’s not the reason she gave – technological advancement was by no means sole or even primary. She’s not a believer in Technocracy (or technocracy). Her main focus was on (as she saw it) Israel being far and away more recognizing of individual rights.

          Your last two sentences are without foundation. States trade and ally for the same reasons as people do – from very good reasons to very bad ones.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > That’s not the reason she gave – technological advancement was by no means sole or even primary.

            Wrong.

            “If you mean whose side should we be on: Israel or the Arabs? I would certainly say Israel because it’s the advanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages.” ~Ayn Rand, 1979, interview on the Phil Donohue Show

          • fuguewriter

            What “M.” said: she says Americans should “support Israel” because it is more technologically advanced than Palestine.

            What “fuguewriter” [I] said: “technological advancement was by no means sole or even primary”

            What Ayn Rand said: “If you mean whose side should we be on: Israel or the Arabs? I would certainly say Israel because it’s theadvanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages.”

            Technological advancement sole? No – note the more fundamental words “advanced” and “civilized.” Technological advancement primary? No – note the more fundamental words “advanced” and “civilized.”

            I’m going to start putting you in the Nancy McClernan category, BB. Life is short. Come up with some substance.

          • M.

            Ho hum. My point being – there is no reason for me or any other American to “support” Israel. Support means what? Send troops? Send money? Send weapons?

            The fight between the Abrahamic tribes is not my fight.

            Ayn was just having a star of David moment.

          • Nancy McClernan

            Wow, you make me sound like I’m famous, and people in this forum know who I am.

            But since you are taking my name in vain, I suppose I must introduce myself to the Uncommon God Uncommon Good people – I’m one of the contributors to the Daylight Atheism blog’s ongoing analysis of Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” – we kicked fuguewriter’s ass up one side of the discussion and down the other in our various debates, and that’s why he’s too afraid to face us any more and had to hide away over here.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2013/11/atlas-shrugged-industrial-accidents/

            For the record, I have no strong opinions about Israel vs. Palestine. I haven’t studied the issue thoroughly but it appears that each side has valid arguments. Sorry I couldn’t take a definite stand on this issue.

            Ayn Rand, however, always felt that societies which were technologically superior had the right to dominate their technological inferiors which is why she thought that the Native Americans deserved what they got – and her intellectual heirs at the Ayn Rand Institute feel the same way:

            http://www.aynrand.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=11163&news_iv_ctrl=1223

            I will give fuguewriter some credit though – if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t have become acquainted nearly so soon with “100 Voices: An Oral History of Ayn Rand” by Scott McConnell, which has all kinds of fascinating tidbits about Ayn Rand.

            For example, are you aware of Ayn Rand’s delusional grandiosity? Check this out:

            One of the humorous things that came up was that she wanted it in her contract that every time she had to go to the West Coast she had to fly in a private jet. When I asked her why, she said, “Darling, if the Russians find out I’m flying on an airliner, they’ll hijack it.” Which I thought was a bit extreme.

            p. 510 Larry Abrams

            It sounds like a joke, but she wasn’t joking – Rand was known for having no sense of humor – this is also from 100 Voices:

            Q. What’s your strongest memory of Ayn Rand?

            That she had absolutely no sense of humor.

            Marma “Docky” Wolfe p. 51

            I highly recommend this book
            http://www.amazon.com/100-Voices-Oral-History-Rand/dp/B004P5OP70

            along with the two important 2009 biographies of Rand by Anne C. Heller and Jennifer Burns.

            OK, so now you have some idea who I am – as to why fuguewriter believes I’m notorious enough to drop my name here – that is a complete mystery.

          • fuguewriter

            Ah, with the amount of negative Internet energy with you at or near its center, the assumption was natural.

            Nothing like loudly self-proclaimed victory to display real triumph!

          • Nancy McClernan

            They needn’t take my word for it – I provided a link and they can judge for themselves.

            In any case, stop defaming me for the sake of getting my attention.

            Now let’s talk about something really interesting – what an incredible drag Ayn Rand was:

            Can you summarize your impression of Ayn Rand?

            I didn’t particularly like her. She was a very obstinate woman, and she did not exude any charm of any kind. She was down to earth about everything, even if you talked about the character of the scene, she would express a point of view, and that was the only point of view necessary.

            When she was discussing these things with you, what was her manner?

            Very simple, very direct. Very little humor. I think she was quite a difficult lady to work with. She was a very determined little woman. She wanted her own way. She felt that she had written the Bible.

            100 Voices p. 70, Robert Douglas

          • fuguewriter

            They’re leaping to crown you with laurels and heap you with flower-offerings as I type.

            Cherry-picking right on schedule.

          • Nancy McClernan

            Anybody here interested in Rand and her work, I recommend you check out the discussion at Daylight Atheism – we are thoroughly dissecting “Atlas Shrugged.”

            (Nathaniel) Branden’s attraction to Rand had faded further under the weight of her sadness, anger, demands, and increasing neglect of her physical appearance. She was never fastidious, but at this time her grooming slipped so precipitously that Branden asked (his wife) Barbara to speak to Rand about bathing more frequently.

            Ayn Rand and the World She Made p. 307 – Anne C. Heller

          • fuguewriter

            Cherry-picking negatives is the strategy of champions.

          • M.

            “If you mean whose side should we be on: Israel or the Arabs? I would certainly say Israel because it’s the advanced, technological, civilized country amidst a group of almost totally primitive savages”

            Savages?

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            M., Ayn Rand and her acolytes constantly employ a technique called “dehumanization.” He whom she labels one of her several names—savage, parasite, etc.—is a subhuman untermensch, worthy of Hellish treatment.

            “At the core of evil is the process of dehumanization by which certain other people or collectives of them, are depicted as less than human, as non comparable in humanity or personal dignity to those who do the labeling.”
            Dehumanization – The Lucifer Effect
            by Philip Zimbardo (of Stanford Prison Experiment fame)
            lucifereffect.com/dehumanization.htm

          • M.

            Oh blimey! I was paraphrasing because I didn’t feel like looking for the video and linking it. Sheesh.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > States trade

            Indeed. So much for Ayn Rand’s ill-informed “Trader Principle” theory, with its false dichotomy between economic power and political power.

            Anthropologist David Graeber has further debunked her (actually Adam Smith’s) false history of how trade and money started with his book Debt: The First 5,000 Years.

            “…starting from the first recorded debt systems that existed in the Sumer civilization around 3500 BC. In this early form of borrowing and lending, farmers would often become so mired in debt that their children would be forced into debt peonage…the traditional explanation for the origins of monetary economies from primitive bartering system, as laid out by Adam Smith, doesn’t find empirical support.”

            Debt to those with polico-economic power is the primary nature of money.

          • fuguewriter

            Your “so much” doesn’t follow. Like the other critics here, you follow a very specific rhetorical path: you avoid, at all costs, explicitly naming your major premises. You take a strand of a quote, proclaim a consequence, then celebrate your triumph – all without actually accomplishing anything.

            I’ll check out that book – thanks. I’ve seen a number of theories of where money and debt and so on must have come from – a lot of the time they seem a priori constructs.

            You don’t establish that Rand had an historical theory of where money started, and certainly you don’t show that it was identical to Smith’s. (Why not Von Mises’s?) I’m not sure that Rand had much of one.

            Of course, your larger argument entirely fails, because Rand has little to no substantial connection with Smith, and offhand I recall her saying hardly a word about him. I know Objectivists have an issue with him vis a vis his moral theories: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_campus_speakers_smith_ridp

            Rand is much more in the Von Mises line, which relates her back to Menger. Beyond that, I don’t think you can really draw a line to Smith. Remember that Smith was not really libertarian – he endorsed government public works and such, largely on the same non-stimulative grounds as today: that there would be insufficient return for a private entity to do it. False, but proves he was no pre-Randian.

            Very interesting about Sumer. Here’s a question I have no idea of the answer before looking into it: what were they using as a medium of exchange, and how was that medium produced? If it’s not a stable medium, I don’t know that that knocks many holes in any modern Austrian-style account. It might even support it.

            Ah, look, here I am talking as if you were sincerely interested in things.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > You don’t establish that Rand had an historical theory of where money started,

            Google “Ayn Rand Lexicon” under M and look up “Money.” Or read her books (as I’ve done) and you’ll find she buys into the “barter” myth that Graeber debunks.

            I don’t have to spend paragraphs “establishing” what is already established by her own words.

            > Rand has little to no substantial connection with Smith

            You should google “Ayn+Rand”+”Adam+Smith” some day.

          • fuguewriter

            ( Catching up, going largely backward. Feel free to have the last word. )

            The ARL entry for “money” doesn’t contain a theoretical history of the genesis of money. Graeber (a member, I see, of the septic Occupants – eww) from what I see on a first look has hardly debunked anything fundamental *in the views of professional economists and historians*. This may change, but so far his influence hasn’t quite the expected sweep.

            Of course, if Rand or Von Mises were wrong on the historical genesis of money, this would not be fatal for their systems in toto. (Rand herself said her system was not ahistorical in its genesis: it could not have been created before the Industrial Revolution.)

            You should Google the word “relevance” sometime. Again, you aren’t even clear on your meaning. Rand has little to no *substantial* [note that word?] connection to Smith. She hardly writes of him. So they can’t be fused into some bloc and dispensed with in one move.

          • fuguewriter

            P.S. Most of these discussions rely on welding various figures into a unified bloc. Thus, Smith/Rand/Von Mises/Rothbard or whomever are dispatched as a single filling between two slices of bread. It generally doesn’t work, because it runs roughshod over so many substantive differences.

            Rand and Von Mises are miles apart on very many things – Von Mises was a neo-Kantian in procedure, and his ethical basis is almost the opposite of Rand’s. Yet they’re treated as equal members of the Bad People Liberation Front of Judea, or nearly.

            Incidentally, if y’all want to freak out and create some more fallacies about how Ayn Rand hated the masses, you can always cite this letter from Von Mises to Rand: http://library.mises.org/books/George%20Reisman/Ludwig%20von%20Misess%20Letter%20to%20Rand%20on%20Atlas%20Shrugged.pdf

            Of course, it’ll require ignoring that Rand never responded in any known way and that she didn’t agree that the masses are inferior to their betters, but hey – accuracy gets thrown out in the war mentality you’re locked into.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Rand and Von Mises are miles apart…

            Perhaps, but they dovetail in their arrogant superiority that Kevin Carson summarizes as: “Them poor ol bosses need all the help they can get.”

            “You have the courage to tell the masses what no politician told them: you are inferior and all the improvements in your conditions which you simply take for granted you owe to the efforts of men who are better than you.

            “If this be arrogance, as some of your critics observed, it still is the truth…”

            ~Ludwig von Mises, letter to Ayn Rand, 23 January 1958

          • fuguewriter

            A letter I linked to just a little while ago. : )

            Thus: http://library.mises.org/books/George%20Reisman/Ludwig%20von%20Misess%20Letter%20to%20Rand%20on%20Atlas%20Shrugged.pdf

            Of course, Rand never replied – and she didn’t agree with the sentiment – or with Von Mises on many, many things – she called him an “abysmal bastard”, if I remember rightly, in her maginalia on one issue.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > she didn’t agree with the sentiment

            Cite? Or are you the world’s best mind-reader?

          • fuguewriter

            The cite is as follows: Ayn Rand, passim.

            She didn’t believe in the concept of “masses.” Cf. e.g., http://aynrandlexicon.com/lexicon/individualism.html

            She didn’t agree in the concept of “inferior” “masses.” She held that each person could attain moral perfection, which in her view was the essential human value. There’s a good quote from her about how any man could be Roark’s equal in the only way that matters, but I can’t locate it at present. Probably in the letters. But the cite above demonstrates.

            Last word is yours in this thread, too. Declare triumph.

            ( I’ll be happy to discuss – note the verb – new issues in new posts, but this has been going in circles for too long. )

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > She didn’t believe in the concept of “masses.”

            Wrong.

            “…industry gave the great masses of people a chance to survive.” ~Ayn Rand (Google it at the Ayn Rand lexicon.)

            Now that I’ve identified yet another contradiction of hers (and yours) you can work on resolving it.

            > Declare triumph.

            When one fails to compete in the marketplace of ideas—like yourself—you shouldn’t feel galled. Competition is the greatest thing since laissez-faire sliced bread, right?

          • Guest

            > the war mentality you’re locked into

            Oh really?

            Frankly, I think it’s likely that you’re simply projecting your own “war mentality.”

          • fuguewriter

            One’s doing well when “NO U” is what one’s got.

          • jackcade

            “…false dichotomy between economic power and political power.”

            Yeah, earning the money to buy a home is EXACTLY the same a stealing someone else’s money and buying a home.

            “Ill-informed,” indeed.

          • M.

            “Her main focus was on (as she saw it) Israel being far and away more recognizing of individual rights.”

            Rand failed to give evidence of how Israel was supposedly “far and away more recognizing of individual rights” than Palestine. And there’s a whole lot of Arabs who would disagree that it was or is.

          • fuguewriter

            You fail to give evidence that Rand was required to “give evidence” during a relatively brief comment Q&A on a popular television talk show. (When in doubt, always cry for more evidence and cites.)

            You also fail to give evidence that she failed to give evidence. In fact,.she briefly indicates that it’s capitalistic, technological, etc. – which indicates some measure of respect for free trading rights. That’s the level at which evidence should have been given. If someone had challenged her, and it was appropriate (i.e., program wasn’t running over time, subject hadn’t gone on too long), then she would have been called on to go into more detail.

            Given context, she did fine. Your criticism is silly. Notice that y’all have to seek out off-the-cuff Q&A responses, or decontexualized analyses of fictional scenes (complete with cherry-picking that avoid things that go against your thesis).

            This ARi page very briefly indicates, likely, what would have been Rand’s take: http://www.aynrand.org/site/PageServer?pagename=education_campus_speakers_supportisrael

            ( She talks about it in her later writings, but I’m looking quckly for readily accessible web things. )

            Ah. here’s something more: http://books.google.com/books?id=-2D6VqMXfFIC&pg=PT90&dq=ayn+rand+on+israel&hl=en&sa=X&ei=9gWhUrHuK8fd2AXyroHgDw&ved=0CC0Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=ayn%20rand%20on%20israel&f=false

            Again, don’t take any of this to mean I agree with Rand on any particular (or fundamental). But accuracy is accuracy, and that’s the least concern here.

          • M.

            “You fail to give evidence that Rand was required to “give evidence”
            during a relatively brief comment Q&A on a popular television talk
            show.”

            I don’t have to give evidence, and neither does she (on a short talk show). I’m just saying, just because Rand says Arabs are “savages” doesn’t make it so. It also makes zero sense to “support” a technological, capitalistic society. They can support their own damn selves! Sheesh.

          • fuguewriter

            Next to me, Ayn Rand would be the last person to say that her saying something is so makes it so. So I don’t know to whom that’s addressed.

            So a small country surrounded (in her view) by hostile enemies needs no support? Interesting compassion.

          • M.

            The history of Israel is problematic. Jews do well, often exceptionally so, wherever they go. European Jews certainly don’t need to move to the midst of a middle eastern desert to thrive. And I fail to understand why they would even want to.

  • jackcade

    If you want to know what Ayn Rand actually meant you should not rely on the imaginative ‘interpretations’ of her critics – you should read what Rand actually wrote:

    “Christianity was the first school of thought
    that proclaimed the supreme sacredness or the individual.
    The first duty of a Christian is the salvation of his
    own soul. This duty comes above any he may owe to his
    brothers. This is the basic statement of true individual-
    ism. The salvation or one’s own soul means the preservation
    of the integrity of one’s ego. The soul is the ego.

    Thus Christianity did preach egoism in my sense of the
    word, in high, noble and spiritual sense. Christ
    did say that you must love your neighbor as yourself,
    but He never said that you must love your neighbor
    better than yourself – which is a monstrous doctrine
    of altruism and collectivism. Altruism – the demand
    of self-immolation for others – contradicts the basic
    premise or Christianity, the sacredness of one’s own
    soul. Altruism introduced a basic contradiction into
    Christian philosophy, which has never been resolved.
    The entire history of Christianity in Europe has been
    a continuous civil war, not merely as a fact, but also
    in spirit. I believe that Christianity will not regain
    its power as a vital spiritual force until it has
    resolved this contradiction. And since it cannot
    reject the conception or the paramount sacredness of
    the individual soul – this conception holds the root,
    the meaning and the greatness or Christianity – it
    must reject the morality of altruism. It must teach
    men neither to serve others nor to rule others, but
    to live together as independent equals, which is the
    only possible state of true brotherhood. Brothers
    are not mutual servants nor mutual dependents. Only
    slaves are. Dependence breeds hatred. Only free men
    can afford to be benevolent. Only free men can love
    and respect one another. But a free man is an in-
    dependent man.And an independent man is one who lives
    primarily for himself.” Ayn Rand, 1943.

    • M.

      “Christianity was the first school of thought
      that proclaimed the supreme sacredness or the individual.”

      Not true.

      • jackcade

        Yes it is.

        • M.

          Vedanta, Sankhya, and Yoga predate Christianity, as do several other South Asian schools of philosophy which proclaimed the supreme sacredness of the atma.

          • jackcade

            Absolutely not. You may dissemble as much as you like but a religion which consigns whole swathes of people to the rank of “Untouchable” cannot even be remotely compared to the Christian’s view of the supreme sacredness of the individual – that is, indeed, the defining characteristic of Christianity.
            So Rand is correct

          • M.

            Religion? First you used the word “philosophy” and now you are using the word religion. They are not interchangeable. Christianity is not a philosophy, it is a religion (the Bible sorely lacks any philosophy).
            Vedanta, Sankhya and Yoga are not religions, they are philosophies.

            Feel free to quote any Vedantic, Sankhyic or Yogic text that discusses the concept of “untouchable” any time now. And what’s the Sanskrit word for that anyway?

          • jackcade

            Religion is just a form of primitive philosophy.

            And as I predicted – the rest is sheer dissemblance.

            The reason the West advanced was because of Christianity’s unique regard for the individual AS individuals.

            There is simply no comparison between India and the West – it’s like comparing a flea with an elephant – and that difference is due to Christianity’s unique regard for the individual.

          • M.

            You keep moving goal posts. First, philosophy. Then, religion. Now, nations. I’ll stick with the first, thankyou very much. “Religion is just a form of primitive philosophy.” True for Christianity perhaps, but there’s no philosophy, not even of the primitive sort, in the Bible.

            I’m still waiting on quotes from Yoga Sutra, Vedanta Sutra or The Samkhya Karika about your other goal post “untouchability”. Funny, I thought you might actually know something about philosophy and pipe up with, “but Samkhya doesn’t incorporate ishvar or atma as elements in its ontology” but instead you keep shifting goal posts.

          • jackcade

            You are not just moving the goal posts – you stealing them and hiding them and hoping no one notices.

            A religion is a primitive philosophy i,e. an early attempt to explain the universe, to give a coherent frame of reference to man’s life and a code of moral values – and the consequences of primitive philosophy are everywhere and obvious.

            You choose to deny that fact by sniping at Rand and pretending that she did not know what she was was talking about when the truth is – she was correct.

            You persist in your evasion by creating risible objections by which you mean to distract attention from the subject under discussion, and predicate your replies on absurd denials of fact which finally culminate in the nonsensical pretense that the caste system has nothing to do with Hinduism.

            I quote from the Enc. Britannica:

            “Many different hereditary castes have been traditionally subsumed under the title untouchable, each of which subscribes to the social rule of endogamy (marriage exclusively within the caste community) that governs the caste system in general.

            Traditionally, the groups characterized as untouchable were those whose occupations and habits of life involved ritually polluting activities, of which the most important were (1) taking life for a living, a category that included, for example, fishermen, (2) killing or disposing of dead cattle or working with their hides for a living, (3) pursuing activities that brought the participant into contact with emissions of the human body, such as feces, urine, sweat, and spittle, a category that included such occupational groups as sweepers and washermen, and (4) eating the flesh of cattle or of domestic pigs and chickens, a category into which most of the indigenous tribes of India fell.

            Orthodox Hindus regarded the hill tribes of India as untouchables not because they were primitive or pagan but because they were eaters of beef and of the scavenging village pigs and chickens. Much confusion arose on this issue because the unassimilated hill tribes never accepted their relegation to the ranks of the untouchables, nor did they seem to realize that their status was decided on a purely behavioral basis.

            Until the adoption of the new constitutions in independent India and Pakistan, the untouchables were subjected to many social restrictions, which increased in severity from north to south in India. In many cases, they were segregated in hamlets outside the town or village boundary. They were forbidden entry to many temples, to most schools, and to wells from which higher castes drew water. Their touch was seen as seriously polluting to people of higher caste, involving much remedial ritual. In southern India, even the sight of some untouchable groups was once held to be polluting, and they were forced to live a nocturnal existence. These restrictions led many untouchables to seek some degree of emancipation through conversion to Christianity, Islam, or Buddhism.”

            You may continue your evasions as much as you like but the simple fact is this – Rand is right and you are wrong.

          • Vedantist

            “the nonsensical pretense that the caste system has nothing to do with Hinduism.”

            You were discussing philosophy, were it not? Hinduism is not a philosophy, nor a religion. It is a misnomer given a long time ago by non-South Asian foreigners to the people living around and east of the Indus River. Instead of calling them Indoos they called them Hindoos. They encountered a wide variety of cultures, customs, traditions, religions and philosophies in South Asia and they categorized all of them as “Hinduism”.

            Untouchability in India is no more a part of “Hinduism” than the untouchability of black people during the slave and Jim Crow era in the United States is a part of Christianity. While many white American Christians practiced it and even claimed it had a Biblical basis, we don’t see a basis for it in any Biblical text, that I am aware of at least.

            To have any sort of meaningful conversation about the concept of atma, you would have to take each South Asian philosophical school separately and analyze. The concept of atma is integral to all major South Asian philosophical schools, even Buddhism with its seeming anti-thesis of “anatma”.

            Whereas in Christianity the individual is viewed as being dependent upon an external “savior”, and the rejection of such is said to lead the individual to eternal damnation in hell, no matter how moral, good or ethical that individual may be in his/her own right, the concept of Atma holds that each individual is responsible not only for his/her own ignorance, but for his/her own enligtenment as well.

            The individual is responsible for his/her own bondage as well as his/her own liberation.

            How to account for elements that are beyond our control? There too we are responsible for how we REACT to those elements (or if we even choose to react at all), thereby still being the masters of our own lives.

            I will leave you with a timely Upanishadic qoute:

            “It is not for the sake of the husband that the husband is dear, but for the sake of the Self
            It is not for the sake of the wife that the wife is dear, but for the sake of the Self.
            It is not for the sake of the children that the children are dear, but for the sake of the Self.
            It is not for the sake of wealth that wealth is dear, but for the sake of the Self.
            The Self is to be known.
            Hear about it, reflect upon it, meditate upon it.
            By knowing the Self one comes to know all things”

          • M.

            Its not a “shame” to not be well-versed in philosophy, most of the world’s population is not. Yoga, Sankhya and Vedanta perhaps even less so.

            Jackcade, its perfectly ok and acceptable to say, “I’m not well-versed enough in any one of those 3 schools of thought to comment about the concept of atma as it has been elaborated upon.” Nobody will fault you for that, least of all I or Vedantist below.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      Ayn Rand: “Christianity did preach egoism…one who lives
      primarily for himself”

      From whom she probably got the idea.

      Max Stirner: “as is said in the gospels…[Jesus] was
      not carrying on any liberal or political fight against the established
      authorities, but wanted to walk his own way, untroubled about, and
      undisturbed….” [The Ego and Its Own (1845) p. 280-281]

      What Jesus actually said.

      “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” ~Mt. 26:39

    • http://www.thechristianegoist.wordpress.com/ The Christian Egoist

      This is a great quote. Could you please give the reference? Thank you.

      • jackcade

        Ayn Rand’s letter to Reverend Dudley, Oct 23rd 1943.
        Rand is of course correct – there were many Christian leaders who were laissez-faire capitalists in the 19th.c. including, for example, John Pye Smith.

  • Allen Battle

    I don’t see Scripture as the basis for any of these arguments. I’ll camp on Philippians 2:3-7 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,

    • Philosophy Science

      Never originate your political conclusions from scripture. If you so choose you may look for reflections of your rational conclusions in your scripture, but not the other way around. Always make your conclusions based on reason and objective reality. Individualism, self-interest, selfishness, however you want to say it is the morality of virtue, the morality of a free society and the only morality which is compatible with human life, because it is the right morality.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        > Never originate your political conclusions from scripture….Individualism, self-interest, selfishness…

        Unless the scripture is called “Atlas Shrugged,” right?

        • Philosophy Science

          If you had any intellectual honesty you would realize that Ayn Rand made arguments and did not want people to believe something based on faith. Your mind is totally destroyed.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Your mind is totally destroyed.

            Yet more of the morally reprehensible dehumanization techniques Objectivists engage in constantly.

          • Philosophy Science

            What are you talking about? If a human tries to eat you or doesn’t respect your rights only an evil person would accuse that victim of “dehumanizing” their aggressor. The person who doesn’t act like a human is to be condemned, not the victim of that behavior.

  • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

    Ayn Rand, while I disagree with many things she posited, isn’t all bad. Reading her many years ago is much of the reason I’m no longer the “evangelical” sort of Christian of my childhood. While I had begun to doubt that a just god could torture people for the “sin” of skepticism in a belief system, her summary in Atlas Shrugged of the theology of Original Sin, as follows, was delightfully enlightening to me, and cinched my skepticism:

    “The name of this monstrous absurdity is Original Sin.

    “A sin without volition is a slap at morality and an insolent contradiction in terms: that which is outside the possibility of choice is outside the province of morality. If man is evil by birth, he has no will, no power to change it; if he has no will, he can be neither good nor evil; a robot is amoral. To hold, as man’s sin, a fact not open to his choice is a mockery of morality. To hold man’s nature as his sin is a mockery of nature. To punish him for a crime he committed before he was born is a mockery of justice. To hold him guilty in a matter where no innocence exists is a mockery of reason. To destroy morality, nature, justice and reason by means of a single concept is a feat of evil hardly to be matched.”

    I still agree whole-heartedly with her logic.

    But that brings up the question: Why are so many Right-wing Christians getting into Ayn Rand, with her being a professed atheist? How does she get a break, but not the godless liberals?

    • M.

      “But that brings up the question: Why are so many Right-wing Christians
      getting into Ayn Rand, with her being a professed atheist? How does she
      get a break, but not the godless liberals?”

      I always wondered that too. One of their sticking points of Marxism was its atheism. And yet …..?

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        Godless Marx: Bad, because he’s godless.

        Godless Rand: Good, because economics are more important than faith. So there.

        What, you don’t get the syncretism of the Religious Right and Rand yet? ;)

    • fuguewriter

      It was good to see some of your backstory.

      This, however, remains problematic:

      > Why are so many Right-wing Christians getting into Ayn Rand, with her being a professed atheist?

      The answer is obvious: her defense of the market and of entrepreneurship and her vision of businesspeople as contributing, *ethical* persons. Notice that she morally deeply disapproved of dishonesty and dishonor. (Which renders some of her triangles curious.)

      There’s somewhat of an underlying premise that if someone has some significant components you disagree with, they’re anathema. This is highly systematizing – overly so.

      > How does she get a break, but not the godless liberals?

      Because of certain essential moral/values issues apart from the in-fact-isolatable issue of the existence of God. This guy has his finger on what’s going on (which should go to show Ayn Rand and I would disagree mightly – boy, do I wish I could have debated with her): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jonathan_Haidt#The_Social_Intuitionist_Model

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        > The answer is obvious: her defense of the market

        Two reasons why that remains problematic.

        1. Market economics do not coincide with Jesus’ teachings and actions. How Right-wing is it to: Condemn richescondemn capital accumulationtrespass and steal foodside with PETA releasing animalsvandalize a market with a bullwhip? Hell, Republicans would have a man like Jesus in prison for life.

        2. Marxism—from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs—is what is actually Biblical.

        “…to each according to his ability.” ~Matthew 25:15
        “…not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.” ~ Acts 4:32
        “…and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need.” ~Acts 4:35
        “…the daily distribution.” ~Acts 6:1
        “…your liberal distribution…” 2 Corinthians 9:13

        • fuguewriter

          Marx somehow didn’t quite see it your way.

          You decontexualize/dehistoricize again: e.g., Matthew 19:21 is addressed *individually* to a rich young man. You will find very few Biblical interpreters who don’t think Jesus spoke very much to his time; most rich folks back then were collaborators with the Roman imperium, and/or figures locked in an honor/scarcity culture. Jesus, like Zen masters, shocked to awake.

          Not a market – a temple.

          PETA? You’re just going off into outer space there. Animal killers, they are! (And that has nothing to do with economics. This is a mishmash.)

          Marxism is no implementation of Jesus. Does it occur to you which institution murdered Jesus? It wasn’t Apple (or Monsanto). It was that institution that never withers away, but flourisheth.

          A glance at the murder rates of collectivist regimes leaves no doubt that Jesus would hold with abundance on earth. He was anything but a statist. (And the kingdom of God was *within.*)

          Here’s one to muse on (and no, I’m not a Christian): http://biblia.com/bible/esv/Prov%2030.8

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > You decontexualize/dehistoricize

            No, that’s what you are doing.

            > Not a market – a temple.

            Do you ever bother to actually read?

            He drove out the sheep and cattle, scattered the money changers’ coins…Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

            > PETA? You’re just going off into outer space there.

            Jesus released animals owned by others. People today go to prison for that. (They don’t get sent to outer space.)

            > Marxism is no implementation of Jesus.

            I never said it was. Look at what I wrote.

            What Jesus taught as a typical Greek Cynic street-preacher and what the early Pauline Church taught are two vastly different schools of thought, which has been recognized by more than a few theologians.

          • fuguewriter

            Do you ever bother to actually think?

            It’s either a market or a temple.

            If it were a market and not his Father’s house, he’d have had no grounds to drive them out.

            Your point is that he had grounds to drive them out.

            Therefore, logically (unless you’re also a Marxist polylogist), it was a temple.

            Which is what the Bible calls it.

            Y’all are astounding for the wasting of the time.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > It’s either a market or a temple.

            False choice. Read the passage. “Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”

            > Your point is that he had grounds to drive them out.

            No. I’m not making that point. I’m simply showing what Jesus did, and how that would be in opposition to Right-wing values today.

            > unless you’re also a Marxist

            I’m not a Marxist. (Nor am I an Atlas Shrugged banging Marxist of the Right that seems to be taking over the Republican Party.) But I do understand the early church was communistic and Marx got his famous saying directly from the Bible.

          • fuguewriter

            Non sequitur. Read the words in the sentence: “market” and “temple.” Jesus’ ire is based upon the fact that it *is* a temple and a proscribed activity is being conducted therein.

            What you show isn’t what Jesus did, and in any case doesn’t establish what you claim.

            Last word is yours. Declare triumph.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > Non sequitur.

            Being that n.s. was ol’ Murray’s favorite dismissal, perhaps your Rothbardian bowtie is a little too tight if you can’t follow simple logical progression.

          • fuguewriter

            ( Catching up. Last word’s yours. ) Would that there was logical progression from you.

            Simple, there was.

  • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

    Are Christians aware that Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged depicts America’s largest city being deliberately depopulated, as the Khmer Rouge did to Phnom Penh?

    If a comparison to Pol Pot seems extreme, remember that Pol Pot’s goal was restarting civilization” (his exact words)—just like Ayn Rand wanted to accomplish:

    When we are free and have to start rebuilding from out of the ruins, I want to see the world reborn as fast as possible….We will rebuild America’s system…then we’ll come back to rebuild the world. ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

    Pol Pot dehumanized people—just like Ayn Rand:

    Sweep aside those parasites… ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

    Pol Pot then committed mass-murder against those he dehumanized by emptying a city—just like Ayn Rand yearned to do:

    Looking down, they could see the last convulsions…the lights of New York had gone out. Dagny gasped. “Don’t look down!” Galt ordered sharply. ~Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

    And if any disciple of Rand dares to shift the blame for the job of making America’s largest city uninhabitable onto the “parasites” in her novel, be reminded that Ayn Rand, in Atlas Shrugged, wrote who bore the blame: “When you see those lights go out,” said Galt, “then you will know that our job is done.”

    Her novel depicts what she wanted to accomplish with her movement in real life: a repeat of the Cambodian Killing Fields. The last two lines of Atlas Shrugged could have well mirrored the sentiments of Pol Pot as he looked over his deeds, differing only in the last symbol:

    “The road is cleared,” said Galt. “We are going back to the world.” He raised his hand and over the desolate earth he traced in space the sign of the dollar.

    A desolate earth is Ayn Rand’s plan.

    • jackcade

      Yeah, that’s right – Ayn Rand and Pol Pot wanted to accomplish EXACTLY the same thing!
      The degree of evasion is hilarious – hard to say which is funniest, the word-salad, the cowboy’ hat [ i bet he still plays 'Cowboys and Indians' ] or the imaginary friend! LOL.

      • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

        > Yeah, that’s right – Ayn Rand and Pol Pot wanted to accomplish EXACTLY the same thing!

        Precisely, depopulating a large city to effect “restarting” (Pol Pot’s term) or “rebuilding” (Ayn Rand’s term) civilization. “When you see those lights go out,” said Galt, “then you will know that our job is done.”

        > evasion

        I’d be glad for you to identify any alleged evasion of mine.

        > the cowboy’ hat

        Your logical fallacy is ad hatinem, apparently an attempt to camouflage your evasion.

        Such an illogical response reminds me of the hysteria of Mr. Thompson right before Galt’s radio address:

        “I won’t permit this!” cried Mr. Thompson. “I won’t permit it!”

        • jackcade

          Again, breathtaking evasion.

          Ayn Rand writes a novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ about the peril of collectivism and you lift a random sentence from the novel and then absurdly pretend that the discreet selected sentence represents Ayn Rand’s ‘true’ intent.

          And when called out on your preposterous evasion you blithely maintain your deceit and feign innocence.

          You need professional help.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > You need professional help.

            Stalin would salute your eagerness to use Soviet Psychiatry to suppress political opinion.

          • jackcade

            Evasion, again.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            Sure, your evasions of the Ominous Parallels between communism and objectivism:

            “…Rand herself—says to a Bolshevik: ‘I loathe your ideals. I admire your methods. If one believes one’s right, one shouldn’t wait to convince millions of fools, one might just as well force them.’”

            How Ayn Rand Became an American Icon: 
The perverse allure of a damaged woman. 

            by Johann Hari, Nov. 2, 2009
            slate.com/id/2233966/

            Objectivism becomes a parody of itself, just like communism.

          • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

            > the peril of collectivism

            Nothing illustrates the perils of collectivism better than “any white person” magically granted “the right to take.”

            A N Y · W H I T E · P E R S O N

            That’s collectivism squared.

            “[The Native Americans] didn’t have any rights to the land … Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent.”
            ~Ayn Rand, US Military Academy at West Point, March 6, 1974

          • M.

            Rand was against that, right? Against “any white person” having the right to take over that continent? She could not have rationally and reasonably been for it.

  • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

    The syncretism of some elements of the Religious Right with Ayn Rand’s brand of economic religion can best be clarified by examining the two doctrines upon which they agree:

    (a) Dehumanization (The Lucifer Effect)—Both the Religious and the Rand Right use a myriad of terms like “parasites,” “sinners,” etc. to degrade and dehumanize people.

    (b) Apocalyptic cleansing of those dehumanized—by either (or both) Atlas Shrugged’s “desolate earth” Killing Fields or the sadistic tortures in The Tribulation and Hell.

    Not that “progressive” Christians are any better. I’ve taken them to task about their dehumanization of Christian White Males. Even “non-violent” Mennonites (my background is Anabaptist, but so many have gotten citified and turned progressive) who want to apocalyptically cleanse we gun owners of our sins against progressivism with “one shot to the forehead.”

    • M.

      Christianity and Islam, both conservative and progressive forms of either, are problematic because they subscribe to universalism.

  • I’m right

    I think my concrete type of thinking might be beneficial in understanding the altruism issue.

    I will start with a thought experiment.

    Imagine you have a group of 10 people. Let’s say five of these people are perfectly altruistic, and that the other five are the exact opposite of altruistic. You might term those non-altruistic people “selfish”, or “honest”, based on your
    own viewpoints.

    Let’s say each of the 10 people has a $1 bill, and that, furthermore, that $1 bill is all each of these people possesses. And let’s say that $1 bill contains all the material wealth, social status, power, etc., that each person has, that all of those things are contained in the $1 bill.

    By the logic of altruism, the altruistic people will give their $1 away to someone else. Eventually, the “selfish” or “honest” people will possess all the $1 bills;
    that is; everything that can be possessed. They will have all the wealth and
    status and power of the group. The altruistic people will have nothing.

    As a consequence of the logic of the concept of altruism, there are three types of people in the world.

    The first type are people who use altruistic people to enrich themselves. These people make altruistic people their slaves. This first type is exemplified by victim groups, shady bankers, etc.

    The second type are people who don’t believe in altruism. These people believe in depending on yourself for your own happiness, without making altruistic people your slaves. This type is exemplified by successful businesspeople.

    The third type of people that exist, in the universe of altruism, are people who actually are the true altruists. As noted above, these people are slaves to people who are not altruistic and who use them as beasts of burden. This type is exemplified by the soldier at the front lines of a war who gets his brains blown out.

    If, above, you called non-altruistic people “honest”, then you are a member of the second type of people. You are probably a strong person who can take care of him- or herself, without using altruistic people as your slave. You are a model citizen.

    If you called non-altruistic people “selfish”, then you are either a deceitful, manipulative person who uses altruistic people as your slave, or you are the slave.

    If you are the slave, then wake up and realize you are a slave. And realize your only tool to defend yourself against attacks by type 1 people is reality. You simply point out to the person trying to make you their slave what they are doing, and the manipulation, their only power over you, disappears. Your escape from slavery is directly proportional to your ability to point out bullsh….

    The group of 10 people is a microcosm of nations based on the Christian faith, which has, as its main teaching, the promotion of altruism.

    Altruism can work, to a certain degree, if you simultaneously promote honesty, or accountability if you prefer. That’s because when honesty is promoted, truly altruistic people can use reality to emasculate manipulators and liars.

    Unfortunately for Christianity, political correctness, or the promotion of not hurting peoples’ feelings, has made this religion an evil religion to promote, because truly altruistic people get turned into slaves and constantly get abused.

    Add honesty, and then there is a reason for logical people to support Christianity.

    If you have doubts about the logic of this writing, then just ask yourself who has all the power, money and influence.

    • http://youtube.com/user/BowmanFarm Brian Bowman

      > By the logic of altruism

      Altruism is an empirically observable evolutionary adaptation in social animals, e.g.:

      • Trivers, R. (1971) The evolution of reciprocal altruism. Quarterly review of biology.
      • Fehr, E., Fischbacher, U. (2003) The nature of human altruism. Nature.
      • Packer, C. (1977) Reciprocal altruism in Papio anubis. Nature.
      • Seyfarth, R., Cheney, D. (1984) Grooming, alliances and reciprocal altruism in vervet monkeys. Nature.

      No, it doesn’t make anybody a “slave.”

      However, you did faintly point towards the evolutionary concept of group selection and how it relates to the evolution of religion, as David Sloan Wilson describes in his text Darwin’s Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society. (University of Chicago Press, 2002)


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